|Simei||2009||Don Bosco Children Fund, Phnom Penh||Cambodia|
Describe the work you did during your placement:
Assisting with ongoing youth programs, organizing and conducting an English language training course tailored for DBCF office staff, being a member of DBCF Basic Education Sponsorship program team traveling all over Cambodia for investigation of basic education status and implementation of the outreach projects and initiating different activity programs to work with children/youth. Efficiently communicating, learning motivation and moral/ethical value, helping out coordination and communication within the organization and with other partners, giving feedback and suggestion to SDB Melbourne as regards development and planning of overseas volunteer project.
Describe some of the best and most challenging aspects of your placement:
I was doing my masters degree of educational leadership at UNSW before volunteering with the Cagliero Project, and I had several years experience teaching English as a second language to children in China before my study study, so working with children of Don Bosco Children Fund was actually not much different from what I used to do in terms of teaching or doing activities with them, but the challenge may be you have to take it in a different occasion and style. Where the students could be gathered (most time it happened at a monastery yard) and different ages of groups of children to be organized at the same time might take you more time to think and plan what to say and what to do. On site those students were always well behaved waiting for your speech. That’s probably another challenge to think about how to break the ice especially at the very beginning. Since we don’t have a classroom most of the time or things you can use to help with the activities, you need to design and prepare for everything beforehand. I was not able to communicate with them in Khmer even I tried a lot to learn, but it’s really hard for me, so English was the only language I could use with the interaction. How to tailor my language in order to make sure they understand well was not so hard due to my TEFL experience, and sometimes I asked for translation assistance from some older ones to facilitate the communication with those who were younger and with limited knowledge of English (some of the university students are really good in English). I was always very encouraged when they had fun and were happy every time I brought them something new and interesting.
Explain how your volunteer experience impacts your life today:
I’ve worked for three organizations after I got back to China in 2010. All of them are educational organizations doing teaching or training aiming at the development of TESL study or/and study abroad programs. Now I’ve been leading the ISTTSE (Integrated skill training and testing system of English) program in the Youth Training Centre of Chengdu. This is a state-run organization dedicating to the development of after-school study and activity programs. I initiated ISTTSE for the purpose of providing more children an alternative way of learning a foreign language other than the way they do at school. It’s proactive and productive; in addition it’s affordable because YTC of Chengdu is partially supported by the government with lower tuition to be provided. Doing volunteering with Don Bosco enabled me to think and do things in a missionary way of work: a big journey may be achieved by small but steady steps. I am walking and I am trying to enjoy and be confident with every small step I’ve made.